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Malignant otitis externa

  • Definition

    Malignant otitis externa is a disorder involving inflammation and damage of the bones and cartilage at the base of the skull.


    Alternative Names

    Osteomyelitis of the skull; Otitis externa - malignant


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Malignant otitis externa is caused by the spread of an outer ear infection (otitis externa, also called swimmer's ear). It is an uncommon complication of both acute swimmer's ear and chronic swimmer's ear.

    Risks for this condition include:

    • Chemotherapy
    • Diabetes
    • Weakened immune system

    External otitis is often caused by difficult-to-treat bacteria such as pseudomonas. The infection spreads from the floor of the ear canal to the nearby tissues and into the bones at the base of the skull. The infection and inflammation may damage or destroy the bones. The infection may spread more and affect the cranial nerves, brain, or other parts of the body.